Chinese gaming giant Tencent has announced that it will make moves to block Chinese gamers from accessing international games. One of Tencent’s apps will be updated in order to make sure Chinese gamers can only access licensed, approved games within the country.

What changes is Tencent making to stop Chinese gamers from accessing overseas games?

After China ended a 9-month game approval freeze earlier this week, it now looks like its biggest gaming company is cracking down on international gaming for Chinese citizens. According to Reuters, Tencent will update one of its apps to close down a service that allowed gamers to access unlicensed international games. Tencent’s speed booster app on both mobile and desktop will now only support games that are officially licensed and operational in China, rather than any game around the world.

Grand Theft Auto V, a game Chinese gamers would often access through Tencent's app
Chinese gamers often used Tencent’s speed booster app to access international games like Grand Theft Auto V.

In essence, Tencent’s app acted as a “gray-area channel”, as Reuters puts it. The app allowed foreign developers to reach Chinese gamers, and also boosted Chinese internet speeds to the point that international games were playable. However, it now looks like Tencent is going to close these particular loopholes. There are, of course, other Chinese companies that offer apps with similar functionality; NetEase (which could currently be in the running to buy David Cage’s Quantic Dream) is just one of these companies. Still, it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to get away with operating them for very long.

Why are these changes happening?

In recent years, Beijing has looked at the gaming industry with increased scrutiny. Gaming is a very popular hobby in China, but state-owned media has described it as “spiritual opium” and placed heavy curbs on how much gaming people can do each day. In response, more than 200 Chinese gaming developers and companies have pledged stricter self-regulation in the wake of the crackdown. It’s likely this new Tencent app update is part of that self-regulation; Tencent is probably moving before it’s forced to implement these changes anyway.

Wild Rift, a very popular Tencent game in China
Games like Wild Rift are immensely popular in China.

Tencent is not only the biggest gaming company in China, but also the biggest in the world by revenue. It runs the world’s first $10 billion mobile game in Honor of Kings, a hugely popular MOBA for smartphones and tablets. As such, it likely wants to toe the line for fear of being sanctioned by Beijing if it doesn’t play by the rules. It remains to be seen whether NetEase and other companies will make moves towards updating their own apps to stop Chinese gamers accessing international games. We’ll bring you more on this as we get it.